Cubs fans to have Bartman baseball demolished Thursday
CHICAGO (AP) -- This ball is going, going ... Ka-BLAM!
In an event applying the gloss of Hollywood and P.T. Barnum to the "curse" of the Chicago Cubs, the foul ball that couldn't be caught in October's playoffs will be obliterated by a special-effects expert on live television Thursday night.
The ball-bashing, taking place with spring training just underway, is being done to bring some closure to one of the most painful losses in the Cubs' doleful history.
Grant DePorter, who helped buy the ball at a December auction for $113,824 on behalf of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group, has lined up three hours of music, comedy and celebrity appearances leading up to the climactic event -- everything short of Steve Bartman, the hapless fan who deflected the ball during Game 6 of the NL championship series.
The ball will be sent into oblivion by Michael Lantieri, an Oscar winner who wrecks things for a living and has worked on such movies as Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. Lantieri, a Cubs die-hard himself, would not reveal his exact demolition plans but admitted he has been blowing up a dozen balls a day in his California lab in preparation.
"That ball's gotta go," said DePorter, managing partner of the restaurant group, which organized the event as part of its annual tribute to Caray, the beloved Cubs broadcaster who died six years ago Thursday. "It's like the ring from The Lord of the Rings and we're kind of like Frodo, trying to get it over with."
Castillo has advice for Cubs
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo says he traded friendly barbs during the offseason with fellow Dominican Moises Alou about the pivotal foul ball in last year's NL championship series.
"He said we were lucky," Castillo said Wednesday. "I told him, 'When you guys go to spring training, go early and put fans in the way and try to catch a fly ball, because maybe it can happen again."'
In Game 6 of the NLCS, Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman deflected the ball hit by Castillo, knocking it out of the reach of Cubs left fielder Alou. Castillo then walked, triggering an eight-run rally by the Marlins, who avoided elimination and won the series the next night.
The ball Bartman deflected will be obliterated Thursday night by a Chicago restaurant group. Bartman won't be there.
"If he still lives in Chicago, I feel so sorry for him," Castillo said. "I think that play was the key for us. The Marlins should do something. I could give him some tickets if he wants to watch our first game. I want to say thank you."
The ball figured in one of sports' biggest collapses. With the Cubs leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 on Oct. 14 and just five outs from their first World Series appearance since 1945, Bartman reached for the ball hit toward his front-row seat at Wrigley Field, knocking it out of reach of left fielder Moises Alou. The Cubs then gave up a staggering eight-run rally to the Marlins, and squandered another lead in Game 7 the next night.
The loose ball was snatched up by a Chicago lawyer and sold at auction.
Amid public misgivings about the way he was vilified for the wrenching loss, Bartman was invited to participate in the charity event in front of the downtown Harry Caray's restaurant. But the 26-year-old fan, who has refused all requests for interviews since issuing an apology in October, has no plans to attend.
"He issued a final statement, and that's pretty much the last thing he intended to say about it," said family friend Frank Murtha. "His whole intention was to return to his normal life."
The ball will get VIP treatment in its last hours, from a farewell trip to Wrigley and a last night on public display in a hotel suite to a final "dinner" of prime steak and lobster and even a massage.
Then comes the final reckoning. Among thousands of fan suggestions for the act: having NASA put the ball into orbit, dropping it off the Sears Tower and having Chicago native Bill Murray, in Ghostbusters gear, obliterate it.
DePorter promises only that "it will be destroyed in a way that there is a mess."
Practicing for the big moment, Lantieri has tortured baseballs in various ways, concluding that "they're harder than you'd expect to blow up."
As for Alou, he is tired of the whole business.
"I don't care about the ball," the ballplayer said. "That wasn't the reason why we lost." He added: "I should put my glove on eBay. The glove that was supposed to catch the ball."
Since the Sox seem to be a lock for the AL wild card, barring a spectacular implosion on Boston's part and a magnificent comeback for the Mariners, the question is: Who do you take to the playoffs, John Burkett or Jeff Suppan?